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Sacramento man's second chance in life leads him to own popular restaurant franchise

Second chance at life leads to Sacramento man owning popular restaurant franchise
Second chance at life leads to Sacramento man owning popular restaurant franchise 02:27

SACRAMENTO - A Sacramento native, a man whose second chance in life led him to own a popular restaurant franchise, is serving up a taste of the American dream.

It's a drool-worthy sight at the Falafel Corner, a Mediterranean cuisine with a twist, serving up everything from falafels to gyros and halal burgers.

"I grew up in a Mexican neighborhood and as a result, a lot of my flavors have Mexican seasonings in them and in addition to that because I'm Pakistani, obviously, I put Pakistani influences into the Mediterranean," Falafel Corner owner Sajad Shakoor said.

Shakoor developed his culinary skills in an unlikely place, the San Quentin prison.

"I was in prison most of my life, over 20 years," he said. "I went in when I was in high school. I went in for a third strike. My third strike was instigating a fist fight and this was a law where if you had two previous felonies, your third one no matter what it was it would give you a life sentence."

While behind bars, Shakoor got creative.

"One of the specialties and what I was known for and the reason why I have it on my menu here was the quesadilla," Shakoor said. "We couldn't get cheese in prison so I used to have to make my own cheese. We'd bring back milk from the kitchen and get kitchen hats and hair nets and strain the cheese through there and let it dry."

Between cooking and getting his education in prison, he also helped draft Proposition 36, revising the three strikes law to impose a life sentence only when the new felony conviction is serious or violent.

It was this work that helped Shakoor gain his freedom early. From there, he went on to become the owner of Falafel Corner.

Franchising out to roughly 40 locations across California, he picks those who otherwise might be overlooked to run those establishments.

"Whether it's an Afghan refugee who's trying to make something of his life with his family or some lady who got divorced who might need some financial stability," he said.

Those quesadillas he once made in prison are now a staple on Falafel Corner's menu, symbolic to Shakoor of never taking his second chance for granted.

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